This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #327: You Really Got Me by The Kinks.
When the history of UK music is written, bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, The Smiths, Radiohead and The Who always tend to receive a lion’s share of the praise. However, the contribution made by two brothers, Ray and Dave Davies, cannot be overlooked. The Davies Brothers formed a band called The Kinks in 1964. Over the course of a career that saw them release 24 albums and have a string of hit songs such as “Lola”, “All Day and All of the Night”, “Come Dancing” and “You Really Got Me”, among 18 Top #40 hits, and multiple Gold and Platinum records, The Kinks were as big a part of the British Invasion as any other band mentioned above. One measure of proof can be found when The Kinks were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
“You Really Got Me” was the song that started it all for The Kinks. It was released in 1964 and was the third single the band had released but it was the one that launched their careers, going all the way to #1 on the charts! The song was written by Ray Davies, who claims it was among the first five or so songs that he ever wrote in his life. Originally, it was a jazzier, piano-centric Blues-inspired slower song. But, it was Dave Davies who suggested that it struck him as being better served with an edgier, more uptempo guitar style. *Apparently, there has been some controversy about the original guitar element to this song. Those who make this claim say that Jimmy Page (then, a session player) was the original guitarist when the song was first recorded. Page denies this and gives proper credit to Dave Davies. That “You Really Got Me” was originally intended as a Blues song should surprise no one because of what we now know about Rock being built upon a foundation of The Blues. Ray Davies has always maintained that the style of the song was meant to pay tribute to some of the old style Bluesmen such as LeadBelly and Muddy Waters.
As far as lyrical content goes, Ray Davies says the idea for the lyrics came to him after seeing a beautiful girl in the audience and his failed attempt to connect with her after the show. He said that he couldn’t stop thinking of her and that “You Really Got Me” was what popped into his head when he thought of her.
The Kinks have inspired many bands with “You Really Got Me”. One of the most famous cover versions of this song belongs to Van Halen, who used this song as their lead single from their debut album. Their version paid tribute to the guitar work of Dave Davies which, according to Eddie Van Halen (as well as many other guitarists) was one of the first songs that introduced the concept of the guitar riff off of the top of the song. Because of the guitar riff in the original version of “You Really Got Me”, bands started transitioning away from the Chuck Berry/Little Richard-style of playing and on to the more riff-oriented style of playing that we have seen on songs such as “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones and “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin.
One of the things that kept The Kinks from being as big as The Beatles or The Who was the fact that the Davies brothers argued intensely and often required periods of down time away from each other. But regardless of their in-fighting, Ray and Dave Davies, along with the other original members of the band, Mick Avory and Pete Quaife, produced some of the most important and influential music of the 1960s and beyond. The incisive songwriting of Ray Davies, combined with the guitar playing of brother, Dave helped make The Kinks one of the best bands of their era. Certainly worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the other great British bands in music history.
Let’s see what all the fuss was about, shall we? Here are The Kinks with the original version of “You Really Got Me”. Enjoy.
The link to the music video for “You Really Got Me” by Van Halen can be found here.
The link to the official website for The Kinks can be found here.
Thanks to Rolling Stone Magazine for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their website can be found here.
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